The Harry Potter Garden

Gardening Gone Wild‘s Garden Blogger’s December Design Workshop is Kids in the Garden. This is sort of a re-post – a concoction made from multiple posts about my daughter’s Harry Potter Garden over the last year–sort of a Frankenpost. Let’s call it a remix with special bonus features. I have added the names of the plants and their descriptions, which I’d never published before.

For Garden Walk Buffalo each year, my ten-year-old daughter, Margaux, and I, buy the oddest-looking plants we can find when we’re doing the nursery rounds in the spring.

We plant these in her garden and give them all names of plants that can be found in the Harry Potter books. A pencil plant becomes Gillyweed (Looking like slimy, greyish-green rat tails, it tastes slimy and rubbery, like octopus tentacles. When eaten, causes the user to grow gills, webbed feet and webbing between fingers. The effect lasts for about an hour.)

A funny-looking sedum become Bubotuber (Thick, slug-like plants. It is normal for them to squirm, covered in pus-filled swellings. The pus itself creates severe irritation on the skin – dragon-hide gloves are suggested. In a dilute form it may be used as a cure for acne.)

A redbud becomes the wand-making hornbeam, an over-wintering cactus becomes stinksap-spewing mimbulus mimbletonia. Morning glories become devil’s snare (which seems a more appropriate name for them anyway). Add in some fluxweed, scurvy grass, venomous tentacula, gurdyroot and a puffapod and we have well-labeled and documented plantings for our visitors.

Located conveniently at the bottom of the jungle gym that was here when we bought the place, the garden was started three years ago, slowly taking over what is the only remaining bit of grass on our property.

The Sensitive plant was a big hit during Garden Walk this year. Whenever bored kids were dragged into the yard by parents or grandparents, rolling their eyes and wanting to be anywhere on earth–except a garden tour–we would bring them over to the Sensitive Plant and let them touch the leaves to watch them fold closed.

After a day of being told not to touch any plants, this was a welcome relief. Many kids came back to our yard, this time dragging their parents, to play with the plant again.

This year, we also took dried Allium seed heads and spray painted them purple and stuck them throughout the garden. In the photo below, you can see the doll’s head with the fake ivy coming out of it. Any Harry Potter fan will recognize that as Mandrake. There’s also a motion-sensor frog that croaks when you move in front of it, named Trevor. (Named after Neville’s pet frog. Don’t know who Neville is? Ask a Harry Potter fan.)

Parts of this post, and the photo at the top of the post, were originally published in People, Places Plants magazine, a magazine for northeast gardeners, based in Maine, in their Spring ’07 issue. Before that, it was a comment on Garden Rant. The photo at the top of the post was taken by Ann Casady, creative director for the magazine at the time.

The best part is to see regular people (muggles) reading the tags and taking notes and photos during Garden Walk, one person even asked where they could buy them. That’s when I have to break it to them that this is a fictional garden.

Below are the names and descriptions we use on the plant labels. Some are actual plants–with fictional descriptions, such as Wolfsbane, Hornbeam and Mandrake. Lamb’s Ears and Sensitive Plant are my additions. They already sounded like made up plants.

  • Gillyweed Looking like slimy, greyish-green rat tails, it tastes and rubbery, like octopus tentacles. When eaten, causes the user to grow gills, webbed feet and webbing between fingers. The effect lasts for about an hour.
  • Devil’s Snare Protection against the theft of the Philosopher’s Stone, Hermione tells Harry and Ron, trapped in the plant, to relax, and it releases them once they stop wiggling.
  • Wolfsbane Ascribed with supernatural powers relating to werewolves, mostly to repel them. And often an important ingredient in witches’ magic ointments.
  • Bubotuber Thick, slug-like plants. It is normal for them to squirm, covered in pus-filled swellings. The pus itself creates severe irritation on the skin – dragon-hide gloves are suggested. In a dilute form it may be used as a cure for acne.
  • Mimbulus mimble-tonia Very rare, native to Assyria, this plant resembles a grey cactus, but with boils where the spines would have been. The boils are a defensive mechanism that spews Stinksap upon contact.
  • Puffapod Fat pink pods with seeds that burst into flower if dropped.
  • Scurvy grass “Moste efficacious in the inflaming of the braine, and [is] therefore much used in Confusing and Befuddlement Draughts, where the wizard is desirous of producing hot-headedness and recklessness”
  • Flitterbloom This plant apparently superficially resembles Devil’s Snare in appearance, but is non-violent
  • Dittany One of the plants found in One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi, and which historically has indeed been believed to have magic powers.
  • Flutterby bush This kind of bush quivers and shakes.
  • Alihotsy Eating the leaves causes hysteria
  • Hornbeam A species of tree that qualifies as a “wand tree,” in that its wood can be used in the making of wands.
  • Lamb’s ears Shhh! They’re listening.
  • Sensitive plant Go ahead, touch him and see what he does.

Do you have any Harry Potter-ish-looking or weirdly named plants in your garden?

18 comments on “The Harry Potter Garden

  1. What a charming and inventive idea! Suzy Bales uses spray painted allium heads as xmas-tree decorations in her new book on winter gardening.The only name we’ve given to a plant in our garden is “the lace tree” which is what we call our 50-year-old crabapple tree. Too lovely to cut down but loses most of its leaves to rust by late summer. I’m trying to train an autumn clematis to grow up it.


  2. I loved the Harry Potter garden when I saw it and I have plans to steal the idea and use it here, if for no other reason than to encourage my two oldest grandkids to read more. They already love to “help” in the garden.


  3. Jim, I have kids just the right age that I read all of the Harry Potter books. I can’t wait to show this post to the Diva. You and your daughter are so creative.~~Dee


  4. Jim,What wonderful memories you and your daughter have created together — many stories will be told of Margaux’s Harry Potter Garden. Cameron


  5. Ms. Wis,Next year, I’d spray paint the allium heads in different colors, or silver or gold. The purple looks too much like a regular allium head! A metallic color might make them look like wands – with a burst of magic coming out the end.The crabapple tree in my front yard is stunning in the spring every two years. Other than that, it starts dropping its leaves in May until it’s ugly as sin by August. I believe it was put in earth to test my aesthetic patience.Apple,You haven’t posted in so long – where have you been?Dee,If the Diva plays the, “What’s the big deal, it’s just a book” card, go ahead and plant it for yourself. My wife is a bigger fan of the books than my daughter is.Cameron,They’ll create great memories for her. Me? I’m 45. I forget everything. I need a pensieve. (Inside Harry Potter reference)


  6. How creative! No really weird plants or Harry Potter plants, but maybe after this post now. I did at one time have sensitive plant. Need to get some more though.


  7. This is such a great way to get kids interested in plants and gardening .. I’m a Potter fan too and love this post ! Thanks !Joy


  8. Hi Jim,After I went back to work in September things really got away from me and I couldn’t keep up three blogs anymore. Heck, I’m really only posting at Apple’s Tree right now. Gardening is my spring/summer passion but in the fall and winter genealogy takes over. It’s nice to know that I’ve been missed! 🙂


  9. What a great idea. Maybe a Bears Breeches would fit in with your theme. I have had one in my garden before it didn’t live up to its potential. It slowly bowed out. I can just imagine the children touching the sensitive plant. I would be one of them. It never ceases to amaze me.


  10. tina,Get some odd plants! Nothing odd means you have the same as everyone else’s. And where’s the fun in that?GardenJoy4Me,If you’re a Potter fan, you’re no doubt disappointed in the delaying of the premier of the next movie. We console ourselves around here by rereading a HP book.Apple,I’ll await your return to spring and your garden.Lisa,Never heard of Bear’s Breeches. Sounds like a good fit. I like the sensitive plant too. I like plants that are interactive. I always get caught up lingering over the carnivorous plants at the botanical garden here. Other than wilted leaves, it’s hard to get any reaction from the rest of my houseplants.


  11. I am so intrigued by your Harry Potter Garden that I had to come back for another read. I linked to this story at the very top of my blog. Fun for anyone with kids (or not).Cameron


  12. Cameron,Thanks for coming back. Come back any time! I did I did see you added a link at the top of your page. FYI – Google Analytics says I’ve had 264 visitors in the last week, 12 of which, came directly from your site. Thank you for sending friends.


  13. So imaginative. You have inspired me to try creating a Happy Potter balcony garden for my customers, with credit to your wonderful daugher, of course.You are enjoying life!Many thanksCecilia


  14. Cecilia,That is so cool that you’d be inspired to create a Harry Potter garden. You’ll have to post about it once it’s done!


  15. My kids and I adore your idea ; so, yesterday, we've gone to the gardening shop to choose some “potterian” plants. I quote you in my blog, and I allowed myself to use some of your pictures (with your name and your links) ; if you disagree, please tell me, I'll remove it ! The post is here


  16. Anonymous

    Trevor is a toad, not a frog.


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